Fairy Rings – Fairy Ring Champignon

This mushroom is the ‘perfect lawn’ mans worst enemy. Although I love them, my dad goes spare at the sight of them – “bloody mushrooms ruining my lawn etc…” – “Natures got no rules man” was my lame hippy reply!

Lawns are the main target ground for Fairy Ring Champignon (Marasmius oreades) – or at least where we may see them the most. It’s a very common mushroom around spring to autumn time. My recent discoveries were late summer (as shown in the pictures) and very recently in mid-september again in my dad’s garden (again)!

Fairy Ring Mushroom‘Champignon’ is the nice French word for ‘mushroom’. It’s a highly prized edible mushroom sold throughout Europe and USA in many markets. To the local wild picker, it can be found in short grass, lawns, parks and pasture land. It is often in rings, although not all the time.

What’s this ‘fairy ring’ thing all about then? We’ve got to get into underground mycology magic for that. The mushroom is the ‘fruit’ of the underground mycelium, or organism that is the fungi (a network of fine white filaments known as hyphae). Mushrooms are born to deliver their spores in the breeding process.

In short, the mycelium expands as it grows outwards from a central position. The older, central zone dies off and at the edges of this ring is where the mushroom grows. Die hard gardeners are extra miffed because the grass around the ring dehydrates and dies too (helped along by fungal cyanide toxins). The outer grass region is a nice and green affair due to the hungry, feeding mycelim.

Some of these ‘fairy ring’ organisms have lasted for hundreds of years and more (not just our Marasmius oreades) and can reach up to a mile in diametre. They are are truly wonderful organisms that seem to break all kinds of records. But that’s another story for a later date.

Recently, I have seen many Fairy Ring Champignons collections. Some were but a few, others in partial rings and only one as a giant ring in pasture land of about 4 metres in diametre. The caps (or heads) of these beauties are the best edible part. Just discard the stems as they are just too tough and not worth it. Make sure you get them when they’re young – you won’t make a mistake because the older ones just look unapetizing anyway! Check out recipes online. They’re also good for pickling as they hold their shape and don’t disintegrate. Hope you find as many as I have.

Fairy Ring Champignon - Edible Mushroom

Although not in a ring this time – here’s a few of the Champignons on a lawn

Mushroom ring in grassland

See how the ring is formed in this patch of grass. The outer edge, where the mushrooms are growing, are stimulating the grass growth. The centre of the grassy patch will eventually die off.

The Genus MARASMIUS (Parachutes): Characteristics to look out for:

• Small or tiny caps with tall, thin stems.
• Convex ‘umbrella’ or ‘parachute’ shaped caps.
• The Fairy Ring Champignon is one of the larger species in this genus

8 replies
  1. barney
    barney says:

    Thanks for info. mine are up to six inches in diameter and the underside gills are white but denser than your picture, the same as the ubiquitous shop mushroom. but the same ‘flying saucer top, are they still edible?
    Thanks in anticipation

    • J C Harris
      J C Harris says:

      Hmm. Not entirely sure what you have there Barney. If some caps go up to 6 inches then it’s definitely not a Fairy Ring Champignon. Large caps with with white, crowded gills shouts ‘be very careful’ to me. Do you have a picture at all that would help in identification? In the meantime don’t try to eat any.

  2. doledrumdiva
    doledrumdiva says:

    There are lots of rings near where I live in Limehouse East London, and they come up regularly every year – very pleased to hear how long lived they can be!

    I find they dry exceptionally well, and insodoing, develop a really good mushroom flavour, for making soup more posh in poverty stricken January.

    • J C Harris
      J C Harris says:

      They are a reliable species aren’t they. And, as of lately, agree with the ‘drying’ method, it’s a much better use for the mushroom in this case. Thanks for the feedback.

  3. Seh
    Seh says:

    I have some lovely looking mushrooms growing on a verge. The estate was woodland (about 60yrs ago) and the ring comes up every year – can i eat them?
    White all over with white gils and firm to touch about 4cm x 3cm with a nice mushroom smell – out in Spring (April – May). would say they have more of a domed top.

    • J C Harris
      J C Harris says:

      Hi Seh

      It sounds very much like the St.Georges Mushroom (Calocybe gambosa) which is in the family of Domecaps. It’s location sounds right and the season too. It can appear on St.Georges Day (hence the common name) but more often than not, appearing a week or two later. The white cap can be 5 – 15cm across and the gills are crowded and whitish too. But always be careful. Treble check all ID features from books or online sources. If you have any photos you can send to me at john@mushroomdiary.co.uk so I can help. Please feature all parts of the mushroom such as all of the stem, cap and gills.

  4. Forbes
    Forbes says:

    Hi there I have pictures of large brown topped funghi with white gills underneath. Lots in local park in Hertfordshire.

    • J C Harris
      J C Harris says:

      Hi Forbes. That could be several species. You can send a photo to me for identification if you wish. Just click on the ‘contact’ page for all details.


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